Sunday, April 18, 2010

April 18

A few days after the trailer for Tom Six's horror film The Human Centipede was shared in one of my web discussion groups, Ed Gonzalez at The House Next Door posted this review:

The review makes the film seem less campy than the trailer, more disturbing. I am interested to read about The Human Centipede, but will I see it? Not sure. As I have often confessed, I am a big sissy about this stuff -- I watched long chunks of Gaspar Noe's Irreversible through my fingers. Part of the issue is that I am grossed out easily, but another, perhaps larger part is my reluctance to let disgusting images "rent space in my head" (a brilliant phrase that my mentor teacher shared with me some years ago). Once you've seen something, you can't unsee it.

I typically defend the right to use such imagery and to depict violence in whatever way, but occasionally my relation to that sort of defense is troubled -- I think that is true of most of us, if we're being honest. Roger Ebert found just this past week that the little-girl violence in the new Kick-Ass went beyond his threshold of disapproval:

A.O. Scott suggested that we all have to draw a line somewhere, although obviously where we draw it will be highly personal:

For me, what I want to or am even capable of watching, and what I will defend, are two distinct categories. In that same web group this week, I pre-defended Michael Winterbottom's already much-discussed The Killer Inside Me: "Misogynist murder should be ugly, shouldn't it? If we're not able to identify with the murderer, that's a good thing, right? Of course the film might be hard to watch....but it sounds eminently serious, which is nothing less than I would expect from....Winterbottom." Given my strong interest in noir, I probably will see this film, with fingers at the ready -- and remembering that after steeling myself to watch Irreversible, I would up thinking (as Ebert did too) that it was a very considerable -- and moral -- film. However, against my theory that realistic depictions make violence more disgusting in the way that it should be -- a debate that has gone on forever, but gained new life with the 1967 release of Bonnie and Clyde and has not let up since -- against that must be held the rather obvious fact that decades of such increasingly realistic depictions do not seem to have sensitized anyone; rather, they have simply upped the ante on what can be visualized without much objection. Overall, this is a very tricky subject.

Until I subscribed to the Africana blog Myweku, I had no idea that there were African Academy Awards:

Since African films are sadly under-represented on the international film festival circuit, a resource such as this list of nominees and winners could be helpful in looking for DVDs. African-produced DVDs would be Region 2 or 5, but with a multi-region player that worry vanishes.

I am also grateful to learn from Myweku about David Adjaye's important photographic survey of African cities:

Jonathan Blitzer at The Nation offers a fine essay about the under-appreciated Uruguayan novelist Juan Carlos Onetti (1909-1994):

SoundRoots -- a "world music & global culture" blog also new to PMD -- reviews an album of Dutch medieval songs revived and modernized by the group Three Ality. Play the tune at the link; it's catchy.

Like 17th century Amsterdam, 16th century Antwerp was a melting pot of cultures, owing to a lively world trade. Hence it seems likely that this was reflected in the folk music of those days. Turkish sailors, African slaves, Chinese traders all worked and lived together. That's why the exotic textures on some of the tracks are not as farfetched as might seem at first glance. 

The Checkout, the blog of the Newark-based jazz radio station WBGO, does excellent podcast interviews with jazz artists such as the young pianist Orrin Evans:

Among notables born on this date are lawyer Clarence Darrow, novelists Richard Harding Davis and Kathy Acker, playwright Thomas Middleton, historian Niall Ferguson, political scientist Samuel Huntington, rock critic Robert Christgau, composers Franz von Suppe and Miklos Rozsa, conductor Leopold Stokowski, singer/songwriter Skip Spence, film director Eli Roth, talk show host Conan O'Brien, and actors Hayley Mills, Clive Revill, Eric Roberts, Maria Bello, Rick Moranis, and James Woods. Over at The Blackboard, we also keep track of "noir deaths," and it was noted that today was the anniversary of the departure of screenwriter Ben Hecht (1894-1964). I love Hecht's freakier projects, such as his decadent fantasy novels Fantazius Mallare and Kingdom of Evil, and the films he directed or co-directed himself, such as Crime Without Passion, Angels Over Broadway, and Specter of the Rose. He was kind of a nut at times, and I mean that in a good way.

Great Hecht quotation: "In Hollywood, a starlet is the name for any woman under thirty who is not actively employed in a brothel."

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